OFT shuts down 13 debt advice websites for ‘misleading’ customers

| March 8, 2009 | 0 Comments

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has shut down thirteen websites for misleading consumers.

The watchdog said these debt management companies, which have not been named, are using website addresses similar to non-profit organisations and are deliberately misleading customers.

Ray Watson, OFT credit director, said “We believe they are misleading consumers by holding themselves out as free advice agencies such as Citizens Advice, the Consumer Credit Counselling Service, the Money Advice Trust and Advice UK”.

OFT has said if the firms do not comply, they could lose their consumer credit licences.

With increasing unemployment, a growing number of people are struggling financially and are searching for help online. There are many debt management companies advertising online. However, they must have a consumer credit licence and adhere to the OFT’s debt management guidance.

OFT advises consumers to be vigilant when searching for debt advice online. Companies and websites can be verified on the watchdog’s consumer credit register.

The closure of the websites was welcomed by Teresa Pritchard at the Citizens Advice Bureau. She said “for several years now, we have been getting reports from people approaching the CAB who have been worried about sites and telephone calls they have had from people operating advice sites who have names very similar to ours. This action should mean that we see an end to that“.

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